Men stand near debris and a police line after explosions hit a bus station in the Syrian city of Jableh May 23, 2016.
Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

The barbaric shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that resulted in the death of 49 people and the injury of 53 others is the latest in a string of terrorist attacks in the West. It is too early to determine whether the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, was directed or only inspired by ISIS. But the attack, which comes on the heels of the strikes in Paris and Brussels and in the wake of the group’s repeated calls for lone wolf attacks, reflects ISIS’ growing interest in expanding the battlefield to the West. A central question arising is whether these attacks also signal a transition for the self-styled caliphate to the global jihadi ideology of al Qaeda. If yes, the implication is clear: If ISIS has indeed become more like al Qaeda, then the two groups might someday cooperate and, consequently, the threat to the United States will grow. The preeminent terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman recently proposed, notwithstanding the current hostility between ISIS and al Qaeda, that unification between the two groups is eventually possible.  

To be sure, Hoffman is cautious; he focuses on the groups’ relations in five years’ time rather than in the near future. He also allows for cooperation

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